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A state-sponsored threat group linked to China has been engaged in a five-month long cyberattack against the Vatican and other Catholic Church-related organizations. Attacks have come in the form of spear phishing emails laced with the PlugX remote access tool (RAT) as the payload. Researchers with Recorded Future observed the group, RedDelta, targeting the mail servers of Catholic organizations since early May 2020. That is ahead of the anticipated September 2020 renewal of the landmark 2018 China-Vatican provisional agreement, called the China-Holy See deal. The network intrusions occurred up until a week before China’s Foreign Ministry announced that the deal had been “implemented successfully” last week, on Sept. 10, saying a renewal of the deal is expected to be announced in the coming weeks – at which point the threat activity observed died off, researchers said. Researchers believe that this targeting of the Vatican and other entities related to the Catholic church would likely offer RedDelta insight into the negotiating position of the Holy See ahead of the deal’s September 2020 renewal. “RedDelta has largely remained unperturbed by the extensive public reporting on its targeting of the Vatican and other Catholic organizations,” according to researchers with Recorded Future’s Insikt Group in a report released Tuesday. “Despite taking basic operational security measures through changing the resolution status of command and control (C2) domains in the immediate…

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